Dancing Before the Lord

Sermon for Sunday, July 12, 2015
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
2 Samuel 6:15-, 12b-19
Mark 6:14-29

What do the following have in common?

Broadway and Cincinnati
Wings and Buffalo
Maxie Ford and Shirley Temple

[ – and then as needed, until people guess – ]

Dig and Trenches (both Hoofer and Broadway)
Jump Click and Cramp Roll
Buck Double Time Step and Double Travel Time Step
Chug and Shuffle
Paddles and Slide
Flap and Drawback
Stamp and Stomp

Not only are these tap dance moves, but – at least in most tappers’ rendition of Duke Ellington’s jazz and tap setting of “David Danced Before the Lord” – these are some of the very moves that King “David danced before the Lord with all his might.”  (You didn’t know that King David tap danced?  Google “Duke Ellington” and “David Danced” and you’ll see him first-hand on YouTube.)  No matter who the tapper, one cannot help but notice the exuberance with which David danced.  There are Broadways and Cincinnatis.  There are Wings and Buffalos.  There are Maxie Fords and Shirley Temples.   You name the move, and David does them as the Ark of the Covenant – after being in rural Israel for twenty years – is finally brought into Jerusalem.


David’s extreme exuberance before the Lord is one emotion in this morning’s lesson.  The other is despise.

As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

Michal despised David because the garment in which he danced, called an ephod, tended to be rather short.  By the words Michal spoke to him when he arrived home, we can guess what happened:

How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself… before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might [do]! 

David replied, “It was before the Lord… that I have danced.”  Not before any maid, but “before the Lord!”

I wonder, though, if at the root of Michal’s disdain – and likewise at the root of David’s exuberance – is a case of two very different hearts that have chosen very different values and priorities.   On the one hand David’s heart has chosen to serve the Lord.  Just as Joshua told the Israelites several centuries earlier “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” so has David’s heart chosen to serve the Lord.  And he doesn’t care how he looks, so long as he is serving the Lord.  On the other hand is Michal’s heart.  Ostensibly Michael was a worshiper of the Lord probably went to synagogue on Saturdays, said her prayers and gave alms, but her undue concern about David’s appearance suggests that her heart was yet drawn away by lesser things such as honor and pride.

Each of us has a David and a Michal within us.  Each of us has a David that wants to live our lives wholeheartedly for God (exuberantly for God!)  And each of us has a “Michal” that cannot allow such exuberance for God, that only too willingly lets our energies be distracted by lesser things.

If we want to bring out and develop the David within us, it might help to spend some time with Mark chapter 6, from which today’s gospel lesson is taken.

In Mark 6 there are two banquets with choreography:  Herod’s – which featured the dance of Herodias’ daughter (today’s gospel lesson) – and Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 (more on its “choreography” in just a bit).   Maybe take some time to imagine yourself in both scenes.  First, paying attention to what it feels like to be in Herod’s hall:  inside where it’s dark and smoky, and there is insecurity and pretense, which leads to a murder.  Then, paying attention to what it feels like to be on the hillside with Jesus:  outside with sunlight and green grass and fresh air, with people gathered around and eager to hear Jesus, who has compassion and teaches many things and offers a miraculous and abundant all-you-can eat supper of loaves and fishes.  After you have spent some time imagining yourself in these scenes and paying attention to how it feels to be in each, maybe ask yourself whose “choreography” you would rather dance: Herodias’ or David’s, Herod’s or Jesus’.

We can “dance” our lives as did Herodias – toward the wrong ends and in the service of corrupt powers.  Or we can dance as did David, “with all his might before the Lord.”

Getting back to the “choreography” of the feeding of the 5,000…  In Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, there are four moves that Jesus does.  Jesus 1) took the bread, 2) blessed it, 3) broke it, and then 4) gave it:  take, bless, break, give.  This is the “choreography” of Eucharist.   We dance these “moves” every Sunday.  And every time we dance these moves, we align ourselves more and more with the King, not in the smoky hall, but on the hillside; with the power, that is eager not to take life, but to give it; and with the mission, not to keep up appearances in front of guests, but to make known God’s love and mercy to those hungry to hear.

I wonder, which life would attract you the most?  Which “dance” would you like to do?  This morning we aren’t doing Broadways or Cincinnatis, or Maxie Fords or Shirley Temples.  Neither are we doing any of the moves that Herodias did before Herod.  But we are taking, blessing, breaking and giving.  The same “dance” that Jesus did on the hillside.  The same dance that we do here every Sunday.  The same dance that all of us are called to do with our lives: to let God take us, bless, break and give us for Jesus’ work of reconciling this world back to God.  With God’s help we will have the courage to do this dance.  And I hope it is a dance that we – like David – do with all our might before the Lord.

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